Rethinking the Energy Solution

Corn ethanol may be the methadone of our national oil addiction but its still the first step to a cure. Its biggest strengths and liabilities are its close ties with big agriculture, Farm Belt politicians, and collaborative relationships with big oil and the auto industry. These connections have helped create the infrastructure to support ethanol and other biofuels but may prevent folks from really seeing other possibilities—like this one.

One such possibility, Cool Earth Solar’s balloon mirror technology presumably would allow fields to generate two crops from the sun as the solar array stands 12 to 14 feet off the ground and generates only 10% shade. The company hopes by 2010 to cut the cost of the electricity it produces to 29 cents per watt making solar farming a highly attractive option.

The balloon arrays, almost playful in their simple elegance, were the result of a rigorous and focused design process. “Our goal from the very start was to find a clean energy generation solution that could address the global scale of the carbon problem. We discarded everything that couldn’t scale, relied on rare components, or had some other critical bottleneck. Ultimately, we developed a novel technology which radically reduces the amount of material in our system and balances labor and capital costs,” said Dr. Eric Cummings, founder of Cool Earth Solar.

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